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Wednesday, April 14, 2021

Indian migrants’ plight: Here’s where SC went wrong to address the issue

The Supreme Court finally took suo motu cogizance of Indian migrants’ plight two days ago. This happened after millions of these informal workers faced unspeakable misery for over two months.

The migrants’ suffering began since lockdown started in March. But the SC had been denying the reality. It declared “all is well”, echoing the Centre.

Critics say it took two months to be wasted and hundreds of such workers’ lives sacrificed to wake the apex court up from its slumber. On Tuesday, the SC suddenly was seen to be proactive, asking the states to bear all expenditures of migrants. It finally flagged lapses in the governments’ way of handling the migrants’ situation.

The unspeakable plight of migrant workers

We all have been watching the workers’ miseries getting back to their native states. Hunger, traffic woes, money crunch, heat and of course the virus scare struck them like anything. Several walked on foot, cycled, shoved themselves in trucks and even in cement mixing vehicles just to reach home hundreds of miles away. The stories and pictures of their plight on roads, railway tracks, trains, buses and station platforms are everywhere. Unfortunately, the SC didn’t see it until lately. Many of them were harassed by cops, while others sold all their valuables to buy a train ticket.

The tragic photos of women workers giving birth on the streets, or state volunteers spraying harmful disinfectants on them made us realise the definition of “privilege”.  The states where these workers went to find jobs don’t want to lodge them anymore, their native states clearly don’t want them back either at this crisis time.

Change of stance on Indian migrants’ plight amid criticism

It is indeed a matter of disgrace that our highest constitutional forum for justice and judiciary took so long to act upon the issue. Till March end, the SC was “satisfied” with the Centre’s measures about migrants. The May 26 development came as a completely opposite move than what they said on March 31.

In its recent order, the apex court has taken notes of the media reports that highlighted the miserable conditions of the workers. But quite obviously, some pertinent questions arise.

Why recognising the plight of workers so late? How come the SC blindly accepted the Centre’s submission in court on March 31 that all migrants had been shipped off and given food and shelter? And why sudden change of stance now?

Many argue that the SC faced a lot of harsh criticism from all quarters of society over this issue. Demanding better judgment by the SC in this unprecedented humanitarian crisis, former judges, senior advocates, legal experts and even law students slammed the apex court. The social media was abuzz with deep anguish vented by common people over the SC. Maybe all these triggered the our highest judicial forum’s change of stance. As they say better late than never!

“Judges cannot sit in ivory tower and be blindfolded to the miseries of the citizens of India.” senior advocate Dushyant Dave, president of the Supreme Court Bar Association. Source: LiveLaw.in

Now the onus remains on the states

  • The SC’s late realisation comes as a huge responsibility for the states.
  • The apex court has asked the states to ensure the workers’ registration and safe transportation to their homes.
  • It also tasked the states to arrange for the workers’ food and shelter till they reach their native villages.
  • However, the SC still didn’t forget to mention that the Centre “did work” for the workers’ welfare. But “some lapses” need to be worked upon.

We all know that these workers are one of the most important part of our economy. And we all failed to give them required relief, financial support and above all a dignified life.

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